You're Gonna Get It!
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Released: May 1978
Chart Peak: #23
Weeks Charted: 24
Certified Gold: 7/7/78
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, released last year, was a debut album that declared almost nothing, but intimated all over the place. The music was intricate and deft, with spooky hints of everyone from J.J. Cale to the Guess Who, all played very close to the vest. Petty himself lived up the the "Mystery Man" title of one of the songs, practicing a terse and elliptical romanticism, always just out of reach. Anything more explicit might have made him banal: his very elusiveness was what gave the record most of its tantalizing, unsettling charm.
On You're Gonna Get It!, Petty has shed some -- but not all -- of his cloaks. "Magnolia," the most straightforward love song he's yet done, maintains the mystique: "Then she kissed me and told her name/I never did tell her mine." But by the song's end, it's the girl who's forgotten the singer, while he's left remembering her. Everything's open-ended enough to make you want more.
Tom Petty's achievement is all the more remarkable because, for all his eclecticism, he's basically working in a mainstream style, mining the obsessions and quirks beneath the sentimental conventions of Seventies pop. He's got too much determination and integrity to be contained within a cult, and You're Gonna Get It! is a bid to break loose. You can't exactly dance to the album, but it's still great highway music. And for a restless mystery man like Petty, who's always impatient for the next step, there's no doubt which matters more.
- Tom Carson, Rolling Stone, 9-7-78.
Now here's a truly magnificent anomaly: a late-Seventies rock band peddling a mid-Sixties synthesis that sounds like neither a history lesson nor a pastiche. When you think of all the bands that have attempted this in the past and failed despite lots of native talent, and when you consider with a shudder the hordes of similar failures the rise of Power Pop as a critically sanctioned concept will inflict upon us, you can only shake your head and wonder: how do Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers get away with this kind of seemingly old-fashioned music?
The answer, perhaps, is that it's simply a matter of personal taste. The archetypes Petty draws on -- the Stones and Roger McGuinn -- are, to my ears at least, a lot more vital than the pop influences, the Beatles in particular, that almost everybody else from the Raspberries on down have reworked. Which is to say that Petty's stuff seems a lot less candy-coated, and you can be sure that he will never go the Eric Carmen route and start grinding out overblown, Elton Johnish MOR pabulum. He's a rocker.
But I suspect there's more to it than that. Even when Petty's being a superficial as any other revivalist, it's a lived-in superficiality; he seems to truly believe in all this stuff with the same fervor and intensity you find in all the great ones, from Chuck Berry to Bruce Springsteen. Even the relatively uninspired things on the group's new album, You're Gonna Get It, seems less like creative failures than good-natured filler, like the B-sides of old British Invasion singles or the deliberate joke cuts on Byrds albums. And for all the formal perfection of what Petty and the Heartbreakers do (they've obviously done their homework), none of these tunes strike you as being too clever for their own good.
If you don't believe that any of this is possible (and just between you, me, and the wall, until Petty's last album neither did I), listen here to "Magnolia," or "I Need to Know," or "When the Time Comes." Then consider how exciting it's going to be when Petty finally transcends his influences -- which, if his rate of growth continues apace, should be only two or three albums from now. And then thank your lucky stars that, with the Eighties less than a year and a half away, we have one more classic rock-and-roll band trying to give radio back to the kids and to help all of us make the transition to the More Interesting Times it now seems reasonable to expect are ahead.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 10/78.
"...might sound strange/Might seem dumb," Tom warns at the outset, and unfortunately he only gets it right the second time: despite his Southern roots and '60s pop-rock proclivities, he comes on like a real made-in-L.A. jerk. Onstage, he acts like he wants to be Ted Nugent when he grows up, pulling out the cornball arena-rock moves as if they had something to do with the kind of music he makes; after all, one thing that made the Byrds and their contemporaries great was that they just got up there and played. Thank God you don't have to look at a record, or read its interviews. Tuneful, straight-ahead rock and roll dominates the disc, and "I Need to Know," which kicks off side two, is as peachy-tough as power pop gets. There are even times when Tom's drawl has the impact of a soulful moan rather than a brainless whine. But you need a lot of hooks to get away with being full of shit, and Tom doesn't come up with them. B
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Not quite as strong as the debut, You're Gonna Get It exhibited a denser, Rickenbacker-heavy guitar sound. Petty's voice was practically buried in the mix, particularly on the rockers. Nevertheless, this album does have some great songs, particularly "I Need To Know" and "Listen to Her Heart." Each of the first two CDs clocks in at around thirty minutes' playing time. It would've been nice if Petty were true enough to his well-advertised principles (concerning giving consumers value for their money) to fit the first two albums on one disc when he re-released them on his own Gone Gator label. * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
You can't miss with You're Gonna Get It! * * * *
- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
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